Ripken buying a piece of IBL team

Oriole gets share in new BayRunners

October 13, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken will announce the purchase of a minority share in the BayRunners today.

Ripken becomes one of a few big-name athletes involved with the new International Basketball League, including Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who is owner of the Cincinnati franchise.

Ripken will have a "significant role" with the team, although his ownership stake will be less than that of the league, which remains majority owner of the franchise, said Ira Rainess, who coordinates Ripken's commercial enterprises.

He would not say whether Ripken had invested money as part of the deal, or was receiving a share in the team in exchange for the BayRunners being able to use his name. "He's a true partner," Rainess said.

Rainess said Ripken receives many offers from start-up organizations, but rarely gets involved. The BayRunners came to Ripken last month, and it took only a couple of weeks of negotiations before a deal was reached, according to team president Greg Smith.

Smith said financial reward was not the primary reason for Ripken's involvement. Smith said Ripken wanted to be involved with the team mostly because he likes basketball, the Baltimore community and what the BayRunners stand for.

Ripken's name gives additional credibility to a league that has been in the works for several years and whose opening tipoff is little more than a month away.

"He believes this is good for Baltimore," Smith said. "His name is as big as any name here in Baltimore. Everything he stands for is what we believe in. This is something we've been working on for months. When you talk about Baltimore and sports, his name comes up first."

The BayRunners and Las Vegas Silver Bandits are the two teams in the eight-team league with a majority share owned by the IBL. Smith said the majority share of the BayRunners is still up for sale and can be purchased by Ripken or any other investor.

"Cal certainly has a passion for sports and loves basketball," IBL chief executive Arthur Cipriani said. "We are excited to have Cal in our ownership group. He's a role model. To have him on board with his dedication is a very exciting and wonderful opportunity."

Ripken will attend games and help promote the team, but will not have a front office title, Rainess said. He may expand his role in the BayRunners down the road, but has no plans at the moment to do so.

Due to the structure of the league, an ownership stake in a franchise carries with it an ownership stake in the league, which Ripken will have. But he does not foresee playing an active role in the league as a whole, Rainess said.

His most significant role will come in promotion. Smith said the BayRunners plan to use Ripken in a series of television, radio and billboard ads in Baltimore.

"People say with any new venture, `Will it last,' " Smith said. "If there is one thing that lasts, it's Cal Ripken. That says something about the league if Cal is willing to do it."

Ripken will be in attendance opening night, Nov. 26, when the BayRunners play Trenton.

Staff writer Jon Morgan contributed to this article

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